ADA, Okla – An Oklahoma public university is at the center of a religious controversy after a group from Washington D.C. requests all crosses and bibles be removed from the school’s chapel, citing the First Amendment.
“I actually went inside that chapel. I saw people's lives change and I know it's hard for other people to see that. But they simply don't understand how God works,” said Charlotte Turner, who attends East Central University.
“The cross means to me that, it’s a reminder that the Lord welcomes everyone to come and pray,” said Pastor Randall Christy with Union Valley Baptist Church.
However, someone didn’t feel welcome and reached out to the group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
“This isn’t an attack on Christianity. It’s not an attack on the cross,” said Robert Boston, Director of Communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The group says the chapel is on public property.
“Well, this is a public university and a public university is allowed to have a chapel, as many of them do, but the whole idea of a chapel is that it is interfaith,” said Boston.
“The government is legally required to be neutral on religious questions. So, when there's a cross on a public building, that's not neutrality. That's a message of favoritism,” said Boston.
Americans United says the cross on top of the church must come down or be covered, as well as other Christian-specific displays.
But Pastor Randall Christy says otherwise.
“Well, first of all, this organization is stating an interpretation of the Constitution and they're not qualified to do that,” he said. “Only the U.S. Supreme Court is qualified to do that.”
After initially saying they planned to immediately comply, ECU has since issued a statement saying the university is immediately withdrawing its efforts to remove religious the religious displays. The university plans to take more time to decide on what to do next.
Americans United sent the university the letter of complaint on June 20 and says the school has 30 days to respond.